Looking back when we launched C! Magazine in January 2002, one of the feature stars of the event (which turned into one of the grandest car displays in the Philippines ever) was an Ian Callum-designed Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante. I bring it up because I honestly believed for many years since that the iconic brand would never take an official position in our country, a nice dream perhaps. Fast forward today and Aston Martin Philippines is launching the very latest from Gaydon:the gorgeous Marek Reichman-designed all-new Vantage. The design of the new Vantage is inspired by the track-only Vulcan and the purpose made DB10 that appeared in the James Bond film Spectre. And yes, you did read the title correctly;the all-new Vantage is actually a 2019 model which will be available for delivery by the 4thquarter of this year in most markets including our own. As the lone representative from the Philippines,it was truly an exciting privilege to experience the new abilities of the second all-new Aston Martin from Gaydon, England for two exhaustive days behind the uniquely squarish steering wheel in glorious Southern Portugal. The steering wheel and feel are certainly more aggressive than the unit used in the DB11 with more pronounced paddleshifts that dictates that the Vantage is clearly engineered to be more fierce and tactile.
The first whole day of testing was done at the 4.692-kilometer Algarve International Circuit which is located in Portimão, Portugal which is about 290 kilometers south of the Lisbon Airport. The very exhilarating fast track has 19 corners with multiple elevations which immediately reminded me of elements from the Nürburgring, Laguna Seca, and Spa-Francorchamps. The track was surely impressive on its own and can easily be consistently completed in under two minutes at fairly high speeds with the all-new Vantage as we used the whole circuit with reduced turns to 14 to maximize the potential achievable speeds but it was all about the car. And what a sports car it is to behold. The second day of testing demonstrated real-world performance through the countryside that included highway usage as well, to and from the lovely Jardim das Oliveiras restaurant in the hills which is roughly 50 kilometers from the Vila Vita Parc Resort where we were billeted. Thankfully, the generous Aston Martin team plotted an alternative route that allowed more travel time to further enhance the overall experience especially since the weather was mostly wet and chilly. Unfortunately, our test batch were one of the few teams that had to soldier through heavy rain and even hail on the circuit which may have made photography challenging but the driving experience was largely unhindered on both the road and track, limited only by individual skill and respect on public roads. I mostly drove solo on both days.
The all-new Aston Martin Vantage is the quintessential British sports car;it is an absolutely beautiful machine that is the natural evolution of the specie that successfully thrived for over 13 years, without orphaning its predecessor. Very few brands can earn that special and elusive ability to continue to grow and develop forward while maintaining the joy and desirability of the older models. So, yes, the new Vantage is monumentally a better overall performer, more efficient, larger, and more comfortable than the model it replaces, but at this extremely high level,the outright performance figures may not be as vital for aspiring new Aston Martin buyers or for current owners. For example, the last Vantage GT Roadster I tested may have had a more modest 430 bhp from its normally aspirated 4.8-liter V8 combined with a sequential 7-speed gearbox but it still achieved 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds with a 305 km/h top speed. The new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 model pumps out 503 bhp and hits 100 km/h from rest in 3.6 seconds with a 314 km/h top speed effortlessly with its 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox and adaptive suspension. The old model is hardly slow and definitely not boring;however,it does demand more from the driver. The new model is much more driver-friendly and accommodates a wider variety of driver skills. It is alsothe first Aston Martin model to feature an electronically controlled differential with torque vectoring.
The engine may be built by Mercedes-Benz but its voice and behavior are completely bespoke. If you weren’t informed about the source of the powerplant, you would have no doubt that the Vantage was anything other than an authentic Aston Martin to the core. In fact, the Vantage may even be too loud at times so thankfully you can adjust the tone remotely. And the symphony is all mechanical, no artificial synthetics pumped through the fabulous infotainment system. About 70% of its components are said to be unique to the Vantage when compared to the fabulous new DB11. Thus, the Vantage essentially rides on the same riveted and bonded aluminum chassis and suspension as the DB11, with specific tuning. Both the spring and damper rates are also much higher, while the rear axle is more rigidly mounted to the body. It is about 10% stiffer than the new DB11 and over 30% more rigid than the old model while saving about 40 pounds of weight with an almost 50/50 weight balance. The wheelbase of the pure two-seater was also shortened by almost 4 inches,which in itself is a profound alternation that contributes to the more visceral and lively handling of the Vantage over its debonair big brother which is no slouch either. The steering ratio of the Vantage is identical to the DB11 yet it feels nimbler.
After the prerequisite product presentations at the pit by the two Matt’s:Matt Hill, Aston Martin’s Creative Director for interior design and Chief Engineer Matt Becker, I did a few initial familiarization laps with one of the on-track Portuguese instructors who remarkably resembled Damon Hill. When I candidly mentioned the familiarity to him as we were about to thankfully pit-in, I got a blank stare of disbelief in response. Whoops! The good news for me though was when I asked to tear off untethered I got no resistance whatsoever.
During the first few laps, my group kept a brisk,fairly tight and equidistant formation giving one another enough latitude to explore the Vantage’s extremely deep abilities. Funny enough though, much like in the Philippines, all it took was one media guy to break ranks and push ahead of the pack, then all civility evaporated as swiftly as it took to shift down on the paddles mounted to the steering column! Then the track became a pseudo race day with all the cars dicing for position, it was incredibly exciting! The noise in-car even with the mandatory half-face helmet was intoxicating especially when as many as five cars would group up on a string of high-speed essess. Then I started to be very grateful that our test track cars were fitted with the optional ceramic brakes to manage the glorious chaos as some guys began to drive a bit beyond their ability. At one point, I literally had a car spin out in front of me while another spun behind me on one of the most technical corners of the Algarve circuit!
Lap after lap, the pace around the track kept increasing giving the new electronically controlled differential a real workout. Though it felt completely seamless, I’m certain the new system helped me drive the Vantage with much more speed than I would have without it and with so much more confidence as it worked in concert with torque vectoring every millisecond. According to Becker, the e-diff calculates and executes its programming in conjunction with the stability control system, which can be fully disabled, and electronically varies the torque sent to each of the rear wheels from open to 1,800 pounds of locking force in fractions of a second. When it is open, the system allows the rear wheels to spin independently, andthen when fully locked, the wheels rotate at the same speed. Ultimately,it all works and the result is a very rewarding driving experience at any pace.
I had two very long exhilarating sessions on the track divided by the weather, lunch, and one other little difference which proved to be very satisfying yet foolish. During the morning bout when I drove spiritedly yet cautiously especially earlier in the day when the track was both very wet and unfamiliar, the digital speedometer was set in “km/h”. In the afternoon session, after also yielding from experiencing the two very sophisticated driving simulators in the pit area, as I wanted to spend the maximum amount of time possible behind the steering wheel, the speedometer was inadvertently set to “mph” without my knowledge!
So, after observing my media colleagues competitively try to best each other’s time on the simulator, I decided to alternatively challenge myself to match or perhaps even best their digital times and pace with the real deal. I kept a mental note that the best time placed by one of the Aston Martin instructors was achieved by also obtaining over 270 km/h on the main straight. You see where this is going? On the morning session,I consistently hit over 250 km/h on the main straight so I was confident that I could extract more speed from the last corner before the straight since I was already routinely blasting tightly through at over 150 km/h! After the first few afternoon laps,I kept pushing hard but every time I would quickly glance at the indicated speed before stepping on the brake before turn 1, I kept seeing variable numbers from 155 to 164 which made me frown and confused. I kept asking myself,“What the heck is going on?I know I’m carrying a lot of speed, but why am I going so slow on the speedometer?!”
“Maybe it was the well-worn bespoke Pirelli P-Zero tires that was holding me back,” I thought. So, I went in the pit to ask for a tire change and the pit-crew obliged magnanimously as I stood anxiously close by to get back on the circuit without losing precious time especially since the sun was out now and the track had mostly dried out. Within a few minutes,I was back on the track with a fresh set of new tires and immediately I could feel the difference, the ride was considerably more composed and the grip was very tenacious after the third lap out so I pushed hard again to satisfy my mental self-imposed challenge. Lap after lap I hit above 160 and touched 172 a few times until I called it a day. As I drove the cool-down lap before pitting in I finally discovered what an idiot I was all along that I had somehow changed the speedometer read out to display MPH instead of km/h!! I never actually timed myself for a best lap time but I was happy with my little personal victory nonetheless.
I have finally found the ultra-premium sportscar that I would have over a Porsche 911 which I have felt for many years as the definitestandard! The Vantage is so balanced, agile, responsive, comfortable, and just so organically beautiful inside and out. I like that I don’t sit too low to the ground like in a supercar or hypercar, too. The trunk is also more usable that before. And when on public roads you can fine-tune the car’s behavior for maximum comfort. It is even quite fuel efficient. The new skin isn’t just gorgeous it is also very aerodynamic and refined without the need of active measures.
The road cars came in varied colors (apparently it takes 50 hours per paint job in Gaydon) and equipment packages but the pure track cars all had the optional special Lime Essence AML Paint which apparently costs close to €4,000.00, the essential matte blackquad exhaust tailpipes (€995.00), lighter forged gloss black alloys (€3,495.00), and the vital Carbon Ceramic Brakes (saves close to 43 pounds in total unsprung weight) which is supposed to cost a whopping €7,000.00. To be frank though, unless you plan to consistently and routinely track your personal Vantage, the standard brakes are very powerful, offer more tactile communication and can easily manage 99.9% of realistic usage.
I had a great conversation with my seatmate, Matt Becker, during our wine-tasting infused dinner hosted by the hugely entertaining and informative Olly Smith (British TV presenter, wine expert, columnist and author), specifically about the ride and handling of the Vantage thanks to his and his team’s directives. We tried our best to keep the lively conversation flowing in serendipity with Olly’s hilarious entertainment and equally flowing bottles of wine throughout the night. Ultimately,Matt and his team labored to achieve the intricate balance of extreme performance connectivity and realistic everyday duty, and I can definitely confirm that their combined magic delivered.
The potent 4.0-liter turbo was first applied in the DB11 actually produces a bit more torque over the same elastic power band but it has to also carry more weight. The new interior is a more rabid versionwith some similarities with the DB11, so it is still very elegant and purposeful but definitely more committed to a spirited sporting pace rather than an intercontinental 2+2 Grand Tourer. It can do it sublimely but with more intimacy and two less occupants. TheVantage gets a healthy slate of infotainment features that includes the familiar centrally mounted 8.0-inch LCD control screen to manage the usual barrage of relevant technologies combined with the optional solid sounding Aston Martin Premium Audio system (€1,500.00).
In over 17 years of working in the automotive industry,I have to say that this last media drive was the most exciting because of Aston Martin’s joint confidence and commitment with their product that they allowed us to drive the Vantage with total freedom of expression. I’ve said this before but I will say it again:an Aston Martin gets respect not just because of its looks and ability, but also because of its heritage. Many brands at this level have their own distinct superlatives but somehow Aston Martin distinguishes themselves by being the nobleman that universally appeals to all. Aston Martin Philippines’ customers are in for an incredible lifelong treat when these new models arrive. And to think that this all-new Vantage is just the beginning of the model series!
|Cylinder Block||Cast Aluminum|
|Cylinder Head||Cast Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, Dual Variable Camshaft Timing, Water-to-Air Charge Intercooled Twin-scroll BorgWarner Twin-Turbo|
|Fuel Injector||Direct Fuel Injection with Electrically-controlled mechanical exhaust system|
|Max Power (bhp @ rpm)||503 bhp (375 KW) @ 6000 rpm|
|Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)||505 lb-ft (685 Nm) @ 2000-5000 rpm|
|Drag Coefficient (cd)||32 cd|
|Transmission||Rear mid-mounted ZF 8HP75 8-Speed Automatic, Alloy torque tube with Carbon Fiber propeller shaft, Electronic differential (E-Diff), Rear-Wheel-Drive|
|Suspension System||Front: Independent double wishbone design coil springs, anti-roll bar and ADS adaptive damping Rear: Independent multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar and ADS adaptive damping Adaptive Damping System (ADS) with Bilstein DampTronic “Skyhook” dual-valve continuously variable shocks technology; modes Sport, Sport + and Track|
|Brakes||Front Brembo® 15.7” (400 mm) two-piece ventilated & slotted discs with 6-piston aluminum fixed calipers / Rear 14.2” (360 mm) vented & slotted co-cast discs with 4-piston aluminum floating calipers, DTV, ABS, EBA, EBD, DSC, PTC Traction & Stability Controls|
|Wheels||9J x 20” Front & 11J x 20” Rear Aluminum Alloys|
|Tires||P255/40R20 101Y Front & P295/35R20 105Y Rear Pirelli P-Zero|
Weight and dimensions
|Curb Weight||1530 kg. (3373 lbs.)|
|Top Speed||314 km/h (195 mph)|
|0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph||3.6 seconds|
Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
|Fuel Capacity||73 liters (19.3 gallons)|
|Fuel Milage (km/l)||14.4 L/100 kms. 16 mpg City / 8.2 L/100 kms. 22 mpg Highway (10.5 liters / 100 kms. Overall)|
|What's Great||Arguably the new best in its class, tremendously engaging and satisfying, old-school boisterous core values and charisma backed up by current technologies, absolutely beautiful|
|What's Not So||Just the beginning, so much more to come from Gaydon|
|C! Editors Rating||10/10|